Request for aid to help Ecuador recover from the earthquake

RFR

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Please find below a special message from our friends at Red Financiera Rural (RFR) in Ecuador. They are requesting our aid in dealing with the destruction of the April 16th earthquake. While immediate needs are being met, RFR is looking to the future and how their member microfinance institutions can help their clients and communities come back stronger than ever. They are asking for your help in one of three ways:

  1. Donate to RFR’s efforts to help microentrepreneurs most affected by the earthquake or provide funds to help RFR establish a credit fund to help small businesses recover.
  2. Contribute second-tier, long-term credit with preferential interest rates.
  3. Offer your advice and experiences in dealing with disaster recovery.

Address your comments, questions, and offers of support to helpecuador@rfr.org.ec.


Dear Friends:

Cordial greetings from Rural Financial Network (RFR), an organization of 50 microfinance institutions with credit serving about 1,250,000 microentrepreneurs and small producers throughout Ecuador.

As you may know, an earthquake of 7.8 degrees on the Richter scale occurred on 16 April in Ecuador, with serious consequences on the west coast. The time has mobilized the whole country to assist with aid to cities and towns affected and have received specialized brigades and support of more than 10 countries to rescue survivors, assist the wounded, provide basic goods to the population and find the bodies.

At the time of writing this letter, more than 500 people are dead, about 3,000 injured and about 1,000 missing. Today, we can say there are enough resources to attend the current needs. We expect that all the solidarity received contribute to what is necessary now. Update of the disaster can be found on the website of Ecuador’s Risk Management Secretariat.

As a National Network that brings together microfinance institutions, we are concern about what is coming in the future. The affected areas have a high percentage of the population marginalized, most of the microentrepreneurs were developing activities related to tourism, trade, services and agriculture, so a drama will take time to recover. We can cite some facts about that:

a) The buildings and road system have been damaged between 70 to 90% in cities and villages near the epicenter, and between 40-60% in other populations. There are two provinces severely affected and other two with partial destruction. An estimated 20,000 destroyed buildings at the time.

b) Thousands of microentrepreneur beneficiaries of microcredit have suffered loss of their homes (many of them part of their economic activity), losing goods, machinery, supplies and inventories. Similarly, some markets, popular shopping centers and traders areas are destroyed or they have been looted, so microentrepreneurs merchandise are lost and possibility to continue their economic activities are not possible in the short term.

c) The affected areas have an adequate number of institutions that have been serving microentrepreneurs with credit and other complementary services. We can summarize that microfinance institutions RFR members have the following information:

RFR MEMBERS – IMPACT IN THE PROVINCES OF EARTHQUAKE
MICROFINANCE INSTITUITIONS # #
Microenterpreneurs
USD. Credit
portfolio
PROVINCE: MANABÍ
Local MFI 3 19,435 42,683,826
National MFI with branches 12 77,740 170,735,302
PROVINCE: ESMERALDAS
Local MFI 0 0
National MFI with branches 4 19,082 34,463,108
PROVINCE: GUAYAS
Local MFI 2 29,111 61,370,685
National MFI with branches 10 145,556 306,853,423
PROVINCE: SANTA ELENA
Local MFI 1 2,195 5,095,943
National MFI with branches 8 17,562 40,767,544
#
Microenterpreneurs
USD. Credit
portfolio
TOTAL SERIOUSLY AFFECTED AREAS 116,257 247,882,236
TOTAL LESS AFFECTED AREAS 194,424 170,735,302

d) Microfinance institutions, because of their high social commitment, are making the necessary efforts to help the affected population, responsible for coordinating aid and donations, assembling makeshift shelters, and collaborating in all that is required. However, the big question is how to recover the economy of the small business, refinance their loans, provide additional funds for recovery, more human and psychological assistance needed by the population to resume their activities. We are expecting that local financial institutions suffer withdrawal of their deposits because people need their money now, however there are local mechanism to give assistance of funds and provide temporary liquidity.

e) In addition, MFI are asking to second-tier financiers, national and international, which in turn can refinance loans granted to the institutions of the affected area.

f) The Government is managing aid funds to multilateral agencies and cooperation to gradually restore basic services, road system and begin a rebuilding process that will take several months.

g) Despite the previous point, we know from previous local experiences in smaller scale, and from International experiences shared by friends and networks from other countries that the microenterpreneur need an additional reactivation fund to resume their economic activities. This is the only way to support a true recover plan in order to let them be self-sustainable. Additionally, we should help to seek solutions to existing microcredits. Conditions in the area are not the best for this process, however there are opportunities that can be taken with proper collaboration, because reconstruction activities could be offer possibility for microentrepreneurs if they would have some resources.

h) Finally, the aid will be concentrated in urban areas and in several cases, it will not be directed equally to marginal and rural areas of high levels of poverty. These areas have collateral effects (they can not take its production by isolation, low demand for its products by the companies or businesses affected, are not part of the housing reconstruction programs, their children are relocated to more distant schools, etc.)

For all these reasons, we went to the RFR network of friends and microfinance worldwide to request your kind cooperation in any of the following areas:

1. Financial contributions as a donation to:

  1. Contribute to help microentrepreneurs most affected by the earthquake (total loss of housing, commercial premises, inventories, machinery, isolation, low demand for their products or services, poverty, disabilities, the elderly, single mothers with young children).
  2. Establishment of a credit fund for micro business recovery (provision of raw materials, provision of equipment, repair of damaged infrastructure, change in economic activity)For these donations, which will be channeled RFR members present in the area and other specialized institutions, we provide the bank account of RFR may receive donations of any amount both individuals or organizations:
Bank Name: BANCO PICHINCHA
Bank Address: AV. AMAZONAS 4560 Y PEREIRA
Bank Phone: (+593) 2 2980 980
City: QUITO
Country: ECUADOR
SWIFT Code: PICHECEQ
Beneficiary Name: RED FINANCIERA RURAL
Beneficiary Account number: 3084625404

2. Contributions second-tier credits with preferential interest rates and long-term:

  1. Compensate for the temporary withdrawal of deposits;
  2. Promote credit lines reactivating production medium and long term;These credits can be awarded directly to the microfinance institutions or by second tier through specialized entities (public or private), for which RFR can serve as a contact and reference.

3. Information and experiences:

  1. Able to make contingency plans for microfinance institutions to enable them to define actions and strategies to overcome this moment;
  2. Organizations that provide support in these processes, resources or property donations, volunteers, donors, consulting, information dissemination, campaign design collection of funds or donations, etc.

RFR is open to sign agreements or commitments resource management and coordinate the actions required to receive the aid and to issue performance reports, accountability and audits to be the case. All the help received will be managed as an international cooperation project, with whom we have a vast experience and excellent references. Finally, a report of the entire implementation of the aid received will be issued, even with the list of microentrepreneurs and beneficiaries, as well as testimonies. RFR’s commitment will also systematize the experience so that it can serve as a reference for similar cases.

Should concerns arise or comments regarding about this information, please send it an e-mail to helpecuador@rfr.org.ec

We thank them in advance for your willingness to help or to spread this letter to persons or institutions that can help.

Best regards,

Javier Vaca Fausto Jordán
Director Ejecutivo Presidente

More ways you can help with donations.

The Ecuadorian Government invites you to donate directly:

Ecuador earthquake

Find them on Facebook

And, from CNN:

The Ecuador Red Cross has teams on the ground providing first aid and searching for survivors.

UNICEF has delivered 20,000 water purification tables to the area worst affected by the quake. UNICEF is also assessing the needs of children in the earthquake zone.

World Vision has deployed an emergency response staff to assist with aid distributions and is setting up shelters.

Samaritan’s Purse personnel are on the ground to help coordinate with churches and community officials. The groups says field hospital and medical staff will be arriving later this week.

World Food Program is providing food assistance to more than 5,000 families affected by the earthquake.

Oxfam America is focusing on providing clean water, sanitation, and hygenic products.

Save the Children is delivering emergency shelter, food, generators, and hygiene kits. It’s also providing kits for children to return to school as soon as possible.

International Medical Corps is working with local medical professionals to deploy mobile medical teams and assist damaged hospitals.

Handicap International and their emergency specialists are on the ground in Ecuador trying to get to the affected areas. They are there to provide rehabilitation services and counseling for the injured and their families.

Solicitud ayuda por terremoto en Ecuador

RFR

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Abajo encontrará un mensaje especial de nuestros amigos de la Red Financiera Rural (RFR) en Ecuador. Están solicitando nuestra ayuda para los damnificados de la destrucción del terremoto del 16 de abril. Mientras que las necesidades inmediatas se están satisfaciendo, RFR está viendo hacia el futuro y cómo sus instituciones microfinancieras integrantes pueden ayudar a que sus clientes y las comunidades regresen más fuertes que nunca. Están pidiendo su ayuda en una de tres formas:

  1. Donar a los esfuerzos de la RFR para ayudar a los microempresarios más afectadas por el terremoto o proporcionar fondos para ayudar a la RFR a establecer un fondo de crédito para ayudar a las pequeñas empresas a recuperarse.
  2. Contribuir crédito de segundo piso con tasas de interés preferenciales y de largo plazo.
  3. Ofrecer su asesoramiento y experiencia con casos de recuperación de desastres.

Dirija sus comentarios, preguntas y ofrecimientos de apoyo a helpecuador@rfr.org.ec.


Estimados amigos:

Reciban un cordial saludo de Red Financiera Rural (RFR), organización que agrupa a 50 instituciones de microfinanzas que atienden con crédito a cerca de 1,250,000 microempresarios y pequeños productores en todo el Ecuador.

Como es de su conocimiento un terremoto de 7.8 grados en la escala de Richter ha ocurrido el 16 de abril pasado en Ecuador, con graves consecuencias en la costa oeste del país. Al momento se ha movilizado el país entero para asistir con ayuda a las ciudades y poblados afectados, así como se han recibido brigadas especializadas y ayuda de más de 10 países hermanos para rescatar a sobrevivientes, asistir a los heridos, dotar de bienes básicos a la población y encontrar los cadáveres.

Al momento de escribir este oficio se totalizan más de 500 muertos, cerca de 3,000 personas heridas y alrededor de 1,000 desaparecidos. Se puede decir que al momento existe organización suficiente para asistir las necesidades actuales y que la solidaridad recibida contribuye a lo que se necesita por el momento. Información actualizada del desastre la puede encontrar en la página de la Secretaría de Gestión de Riesgos www.gestionderiesgos.gob.ec/

La preocupación como Red que agrupa a instituciones de microfinanzas surge de cara al futuro, ya que las zonas afectadas tienen un alto porcentaje de población marginada, la mayoría microempresarios que vivía de actividades de turismo, comercio, servicios y agricultura, por lo que al momento se vive un drama que tomará tiempo en poder recuperarse, entre lo que podemos citar:

a). Las edificaciones y sistema vial han sufrido daños entre el 70 al 90% en los poblados cercanos al epicentro, y entre el 40-60% en poblaciones aledañas a este, siendo 2 provincias afectadas gravemente y otras 2 con destrucción parcial. Se estima al momento 20,000 edificaciones destruidas.

b). Miles de microempresarios beneficiarios de microcréditos han sufrido pérdida de sus viviendas, muchas de ellas parte de su actividad económica, perdiendo mercadería, maquinaría, insumos e inventarios. De igual forma algunos mercados, centros comerciales populares, o zonas de comerciantes están destruidas o han sido saqueadas por lo que microempresarios han perdido mercadería y su sustento diario.

c). Las zonas afectadas cuentan con un número adecuado de instituciones que han venido atendiendo a los microempresarios con crédito y otros servicios complementarios, pudiendo resumir que las instituciones de microfinanzas miembros de RFR tienen la siguiente información:

ESTADÍSTICAS MIEMBROS RFR – EN PROVINCIAS DE IMPACTO DEL TERREMOTO
INSTITUCIONES DE MICROFINANZAS No. No. Microempresarios USD. Cartera de crédito
PROVINCIA DE MANABÍ
IMF locales 3 19,435 42,683,826
IMF nacional con oficinas 12 77,740 170,735,302
PROVINCIA DE ESMERALDAS
IMF locales 0 0
IMF nacional con oficinas 4 19,082 34,463,108
PROVINCIA DE GUAYAS
IMF locales 2 29,111 61,370,685
IMF nacional con oficinas 10 145,556 306,853,423
PROVINCIA DE SANTA ELENA
IMF locales 1 2,195 5,095,943
IMF nacional con oficinas 8 17,562 40,767,544
No. Microempresarios USD. CArtera de crédito
TOTAL ZONAS MÁS AFECTADAS 116,257 247,882,236
TOTAL ZONAS MENOS AFECTADAS 194,424 170,735,302

d) Las instituciones de microfinanzas, por su alto compromiso social, están realizando los esfuerzos necesarios para ayudar a la población afectada, encargándose de coordinar ayuda y donaciones, montando albergues provisionales, y colaborando en todo lo que se requiera. Sin embargo, la gran pregunta es cómo poder reactivar la economía del microempresario, refinanciar sus créditos, proporcionar fondos adicionales para su recuperación, a más de la asistencia humana y psicológica que necesita la población para retomar sus actividades. Se prevé adicionalmente, que las instituciones financieras locales sufran retiro de sus depósitos ya que las personas necesitan su dinero en estos momentos, y se ha previsto ayuda de fondos locales que provean liquidez temporal.

e) Se está solicitando a los financistas de segundo piso, nacionales e internacionales, que puedan refinanciar a su vez los créditos otorgados a las instituciones de la zona afectada.

f) El Gobierno está gestionando fondos de ayuda ante organismos multilaterales y cooperación para poder de a poco reestablecer los servicios básicos, sistema vial e iniciar un proceso de reconstrucción que tomará varios meses.

g) A pesar del punto anterior conocemos por experiencias locales anteriores de menor escala, y por experiencias internacionales que nos han compartido instituciones y redes amigas de otros países, que el microempresario al depender exclusivamente de su negocio para la subsistencia diaria, necesita un fondo de reactivación para poder retomar sus actividades económicas que son su único ingreso para sostén de su familia. Adicionalmente se debe buscar la solución a los créditos existentes. Si bien las condiciones de la zona no son de lo mejor para este proceso, hay oportunidades que pueden tomar con la debida colaboración, ya que las propias actividades de reconstrucción ofrecen posibilidad al microempresario.

h) Finalmente, la ayuda se concentra en zonas urbanas y en varios casos se ha visto que no llegará en la misma magnitud a zonas marginales y rurales de altos niveles de pobreza que sufren efectos colaterales (no pueden sacar su producción por aislamiento, baja la demanda de sus productos por parte de las empresas o comerciantes afectados, no son parte de los programas de reconstrucción de viviendas, sus hijos son reubicados en escuelas más lejanas, etc.)

Por estas razones acudimos la red de amigos de RFR y las microfinanzas a nivel mundial para solicitar su gentil colaboración en alguno de los siguientes ámbitos:

1. Aportes financieros como donación para:

  1. Contribuir a ayudar a los microempresarios más afectados por el terremoto (pérdida total de vivienda, local comercial, inventarios, maquinaria, aislamiento, baja de la demanda de sus productos o servicios, condiciones de pobreza, discapacidades, ancianos, madres solteras con hijos pequeños).
  2. Constitución de un fondo de crédito para reactivación de negocio de microempresa (dotación de materia prima, dotación de maquinaria, reparación de daños en infraestructura, cambio de actividad económica).Para estas donaciones, que serán canalizadas a los miembros de RFR presentes en la zona y otras instituciones especializadas, ponemos a disposición la cuenta bancaria de RFR pudiendo recibir donaciones de cualquier monto tanto de personas naturales o de organizaciones:
Nombre del Banco: BANCO PICHINCHA
Dirección del Banco AV. AMAZONAS 4560 Y PEREIRA
Teléfono del Banco: (+593) 2 2980 980
Ciudad: QUITO
País: ECUADOR
Código SWIFT: PICHECEQ
Nombre del beneficiario: RED FINANCIERA RURAL
Número de cuenta del beneficiario 3084625404

2. Aportes con créditos de segundo piso con tasas de interés preferenciales y de largo plazo para:

  1. Compensar el retiro temporal de depósitos;
  2. Promover líneas de crédito de reactivación productiva de mediano y largo plazo;Estos créditos se canalizarán directamente a las instituciones de microfinanzas, o por medio de alguna entidad local, pública o privada, especializada en el tema, para lo cual RFR puede servir de contacto y referencia.

3. Información y experiencias para:

  1. Poder realizar planes de contingencia para las instituciones de microfinanzas que les permitan definir acciones y estrategias para superar este momento;
  2. De organizaciones que brinden apoyo en estos procesos, con donaciones de recursos o bienes, voluntarios, cooperantes, asesoría, difusión de información, diseño de campañas de colección de fondos o donaciones, etc.

RFR se compromete a suscribir convenios o compromisos de manejo de los recursos o a coordinar las acciones que se requieran para recibir la ayuda, así como a emitir los informes de ejecución, rendición de cuentas o auditorías de ser el caso, tal como si fuera un proyecto con la cooperación internacional, con los cuales tenemos una vasta experiencia y excelentes referencias. Finalmente se emitirá un informe de toda la ejecución de la ayuda recibida, incluso con el listado de los microempresarios y personas beneficiarias, así como de testimonios. El compromiso de RFR será también sistematizar la experiencia para que pueda servir de referencia para casos similares.

En caso de que se presenten inquietudes o comentarios respecto a esta información, favor remitirla a la dirección electrónica helpecuador@rfr.org.ec

Agradeciéndoles de antemano por su predisposición a ayudar o a difundir el presente oficio a personas o instituciones que puedan ayudar, nos despedimos.

Saludos cordiales,

Javier Vaca Fausto Jordán
Director Ejecutivo Presidente

The Nepal microfinance sector’s earthquake response

“2015 Nepal depremi” by Hilmi Hacaloğlu.
Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

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>>Authored by Sabina Rogers, Communications and Relationships Manager

In a country with poverty that is already among the highest in the world, the devastating earthquake in Nepal this April caused more destruction and destitution than could have been imagined. The Nepal earthquake, estimated to have been a magnitude of 7.8 to 8.1, caused more than 8,800 deaths and 23,000 injuries. You can read all about the subsequent aftershocks that, in any other situation, would be major events in and of themselves. There is also a great deal of coverage of the toll this has taken on Nepali families and the international response. (Watch this video from The Guardian.)

Major destruction identified using satellite imagery by the crowd-source platform Tomnod. Last updated April 29th, 2015. Source: AidData at the Center for Development Policy

Major destruction identified using satellite imagery by the crowd-source platform Tomnod. Last updated April 29th, 2015.
Source: AidData at the Center for Development Policy (http://labs.aiddata.org/aiddata/nepal)

Recent data shows that it will cost over $6.6 billion and at least five years to rebuild the country, according to Nepali government officials. More than one million people may be stranded in extreme hardship for quite a long time. Local microfinance institutions have been working hard to triage their clients’ needs and thinking longer-term about the best response to this disaster.

RMDC logo-no text

RMDC made a Campaign Commitment in 2014

We have been in communication with Jyoti Chandra Ojha, CEO of the Rural Microfinance Development Centre Ltd. (RMDC), which is a wholesale lending organization in Nepal. Ojha has provided us with the information below concerning the Nepal microfinance sector’s response to the disaster.

The earthquake seriously affected 14 districts in Nepal, and microfinance clients are among the hardest hit. From preliminary information collected by RMDC and its members, here are the statistics of those affected:

  1. No. of MFIs affected: 29 (only 4 are highly affected)
  2. No. of branches of the 29 MFIs: 142
  3. Members/clients affected: 129,000
  4. Member deaths: 126
  5. Homes of members destroyed: 163
  6. Branches of MFIs damaged: 7
  7. Houses of Staff damaged: 90
  8. Staff deaths: 1
  9. Portfolio affected: Rs 2.44 billion
  10. RMDC Portfolio affected with MFIs: Rs. 1.29 billion

These details provide a snapshot of the disaster caused to Nepal’s microfinance sector by the April earthquake. On the basis of preliminary analysis, RMDC and their members are in the process of finalizing the following action plan:

Settlement of the survivors affected from the disaster

  • Providing soft loans to rebuild homes: temporary for short-term needs and then planned homes for the long-term
  • Managing the livelihoods of the affected families
  • Managing daily necessities
  • Health and education

Creating conducive economic environment

  • Devising to revive the old economic and farm activities
  • Identifying appropriate local based microenterprises
  • Skill development trainings

Financial Resource management

  • Rescheduling/ writing off of the affected farm and microenterprise loans
  • Providing new loans at lower interest rates
  • Additional Rs. 2 billion will be required to finance in the affected districts

Technical Support

  • Disaster management training
  • Workshop on rehabilitation of affected MFI branches
  • Developing new microenterprises
  • Skill development trainings

RMDC welcomes your support and assistance in carrying out this action for the disaster affected families of Nepal. Contact RMDC today:

Rural Microfinance Development Centre Ltd.
Putalisadak, Kathmandu, Nepal
P.O.Box: 20789
Tel. No.: 977-01-4268019/4268020
Fax: 977-01-4247702
Email: rmdc@wlink.com.np
http://www.rmdcnepal.com/

“Collapsed buildings in earthquake-hit Chautara, Nepal” by DFID – UK Department for International Development
Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

How you can donate to the ongoing response effort

You can send individual donations to GlobalGiving’s Nepal Earthquake Relief Fund. Additionally, Save the Children has a dedicated Nepal Earthquake Relief Fund. A list of organizations accepting donations for relief efforts is available from William & Mary’s Reves Center for International Studies.

Related reading

Voices from the Field: Beth Porter

Financial inclusion to end extreme poverty

“By reducing vulnerability to economic shocks and boosting job creation, financial inclusion can be a key driver of poverty reduction and economic growth and at the same time contribute to promoting greater equality,” explains Beth Porter, policy adviser for financial inclusion at UNCDF.

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In preparation for our 18th Microcredit Summit, the Campaign conducted a Listening Tour from December 2014 through February 2015. The Listening Tour was our time to listen — and your time to speak — on the issues that the microfinance and financial inclusion sector face and served two purposes. First, it was our hope to find out how our audience (you) felt about the World Bank’s goal of eradicating poverty by 2030, and equally important, we wished to consult you in identifying the topics that were most pressing and urgent.

We collected your feedback through an online survey and organized conversations with 27 leaders in the microfinance and financial inclusion sector. We heard from them on how financial inclusion can contribute to the goal of ending extreme poverty by 2030 and the role of microfinance in the post-2015 agenda. The results of this consultation will be reflected in the 2015 State of the Campaign Report, the 18th Microcredit Summit, and Campaign Commitments.

Below is a short excerpt from our conversation with Beth Porter, policy adviser for financial inclusion at the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) in New York.

Q: What is the role of microfinance and financial inclusion in the post-Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)/ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) era?

Beth Porter

Over the course of 2015, the Open Working Group, comprised of 30 member states, discussed the shape of the post-2015 agenda. The post-2015 agenda set out to build upon the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs, 2000-2015) and incorporate some of the broader global stewardship goals that came out of the Monterrey Consensus. To do so, they proposed a set of 17 goals and 169 targets (the MDGs had 8 goals with 10 targets each) to the UN General Assembly in September 2014 — a document which was adopted as a “zero draft.”

In 2015, member states began to consider the overarching vision for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), examine more closely the goals and targets, set forth the means of implementation, and identify indicators. While such a large number of goals and targets are certainly unwieldy, many member states want to ensure that the SDGs are truly comprehensive and feel that further whittling them down would leave out important parts of the development agenda. So the targets are being examined to ensure that they are consistent with other global agreements and commitments and that are measurable, but the targets themselves have not, to date, been opened up for major changes or reduction in number.

Financial inclusion figures prominently amongst the targets. Financial Inclusion is achieved when individuals and enterprises have access to a wide range of financial services provided responsibly and at reasonable cost by diverse and sustainable institutions in a well-regulated environment. By reducing vulnerability to economic shocks and boosting job creation, financial inclusion can be a key driver of poverty reduction and economic growth and at the same time contribute to promoting greater equality — and, indeed, it is a target in all three of these goal areas (poverty eradication, economic growth and job creation, and reducing inequality). Financial inclusion also figures as targets under goals on food security, women’s economic empowerment, health, etc. This is consistent with financial inclusion being a means to achieving broader development goals. As a result, we hope that it will continue to be embedded in the targets under the eight goals where it is mentioned.

Q: What do you think will be needed to achieve the goal of global financial inclusion by 2020 and how can this contribute to the goal of eradicating extreme poverty by 2030?

In regard to the link between the goals of financial inclusion by 2020 and eradicating extreme poverty by 2030, let me say that while I believe that we can go far towards providing financial access by 2020, any declaration of reaching that goal will be based largely on transactional accounts. The fastest growing part of financial inclusion is in the area of payments: people using a phone to send or receive money to/from family or friends, to receive social transfer payments from governments or development organizations, or to pay bills more conveniently. Digital channels are opening up the possibilities for a large array of products and services.

But, where there will likely still be gaps by 2020 is going beyond access to usage. Providing a payment option or opening a bank account is a starting point but not enough; people must use those payment options or accounts in order to benefit from them and to be fully included financially. To drive usage, these payment services must be designed based on client needs and preferences. Furthermore, payments are just one aspect of the kinds of products and services that people want and need. They may be the entry point, but it will be critical that other products and services such as savings, credit, and insurance are layered on the payment services.

That takes us to the link between financial inclusion and eradicating extreme poverty. I am amongst the many who believe that financial inclusion is a critical factor in addressing poverty. We all know that the causes of poverty are complex, however, and the solutions are not simple either. Financial inclusion is necessary, but not sufficient, to eradicate poverty.

One of the things that we at the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) are particularly focused on, given our mandate to work first and foremost in least developed countries (LDCs), is to look at ways that greater financial inclusion can help contribute not only to better developmental outcomes for people, but also contribute to more vibrant economies and greater availability of domestic resources.

We recognize a clear link between national financial inclusion strategies—and the ensuing implementation plans—and higher levels of financial inclusion. We believe that this in turn leads to both poverty alleviation and economic growth. As a result, we are stepping up our efforts to support the development, implementation, and monitoring of such plans through the Making Access Possible (MAP) initiative.

We have seen tremendous leverage from small amounts of “smart” overseas development assistance (ODA) and philanthropic funding used to help financial service providers (FSPs) to develop the business models that will help them meet the real needs of women and men. Such investments can help encourage private sector players move into riskier markets and demonstrate the potential of these markets to be profitable, and thereby “crowd in” domestic and South-South capital to scale up and replicate these models.

When people have convenient access to formal accounts, individuals and households of even limited means as well as micro- and small enterprises (MSMEs) will place their savings in institutions where their money is safe and accessible, as we have seen through the MicroLead initiative, amongst others. Such savings, when taken cumulatively, can then be directed into financial services that promote local markets, small-holder agriculture, MSME development, education for girls, and so on.

Q: In relation to our host region, what are the challenges and opportunities facing Africa & the Middle East in regards to microfinance and financial inclusion?

The Ebola crisis has forced a recognition that a public health crisis has many other dimensions, and one of those is related to the payments infrastructure—and, more broadly, how financial services can be relevant in the response, recovery, and rehabilitation stages in natural disasters and post-conflict situations. Given the number of countries in the region that are affected by these humanitarian crises, it is critical that governments, development organizations, and providers know when and how to use financial services to get through and beyond the crisis to secure, healthy, and productive lives. We are working on a policy guidance note on this topic, based in part on our experience supporting the Ebola response, and there are many others who are doing terrific work in this space.

An area in which Africa is leading the way globally is in mobile money. Indeed, mobile money was the major contributor to the increase of financial inclusion in Africa, according to Global FinDex. More people in Africa have phones than bank accounts. And, increasingly, mobile network operators are taking advantage of that—often in partnership with financial institutions—to offer people not only payment services, but also other products using the mobile platform. There is still much work to be done, however, to realize the promise of digital finance (i.e., mobile money and other services including the use of electronic vouchers, debit and credit cards, etc. in conjunction with ATMs, POS [point-of-sale], and other devices), but it has great potential in connecting low income and rural customers with the services that they need, not only financial services, but health, education, energy, water and many more.

We believe — and particularly at the Better Than Cash Alliance and the Mobile Money for the Poor initiative — that taking an “ecosystem approach” to digital finance will be essential to realizing that promise. Such an approach involves policymakers and regulators, the various providers of digital financial services, as well as retailers and others in the acceptance networks, and it requires the support of development partners and must take as its starting point the wants and needs and capabilities of the consumer. We are encouraged to see such approaches start to take root in a number of countries in the region.

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About the United Nations Capital Development Fund

The United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) is the UN’s capital investment agency for the world’s 48 Least Developed Countries (LDCs). UNCDF uses its capital mandate to help LDCs pursue inclusive growth. UNCDF uses “smart” Official Development Assistance (ODA) to unlock and leverage public and private domestic resources; it promotes financial inclusion, including through digital finance, as a key enabler of poverty reduction and inclusive growth; and it demonstrates how localizing finance outside the capital cities can accelerate growth in local economies, promote sustainable and climate resilient infrastructure development, and empower local communities. Using capital grants, loans, and credit enhancements, UNCDF tests financial models in inclusive finance and local development finance; de-risks” the local investment space; and proves concept, paving the way for larger and more risk-averse investors to come in and scale up.

About Beth Porter

Beth Porter has over 20 years of experience in microfinance and organizational development in 30 countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. As a policy adviser at the UNCDF, Beth provides policy guidance and support to the global team on financial inclusion. She previously launched and directed the YFS-Link initiative at Making Cents International to build the capabilities of financial services providers and youth-serving organizations in youth-inclusive financial services.

At Freedom from Hunger, Beth led program strategy and managed delivery of integrated microfinance services to 1.2 million women and their families in 16 countries. She has provided technical assistance and training in strategic and business planning, product design, and organizational effectiveness and operational efficiency, and is experienced in program appraisal, design and evaluation. In addition, Beth is on the boards of the SEEP Network, the Bolivian MFI CRECER, the SMART Campaign in Microfinance, Child and Youth Finance International, and was a founder of Women Advancing Microfinance (WAM)-International and past Chair of WAM-Northern California.

Visit the UNCDF website: http://www.uncdf.org/